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Interview with Piotr Pustelnik, only 2 away from all the 8000ers
09:53 a.m. EDT Jun 20, 2003
ExplorersWeb caught up with 51 year-old Polish climber Piotr Pustelnik just on the heels of his Manaslu summit. The expedition really stuck it out there this year despite the extraordinary high winds, and the Piotrís summit was not without consequence. He is back in Poland now, recovering from some frostbite to his fingers.

Piotr now has 12 of the 14, 8000ers completed. He has climbed Gasherbrum II twice (1990 and 1997), Nanga Parbat in 1992, Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma Main in 1993, Dhaulagiri in 1994, Everest in 1995, K2 from the North in 1996, Gasherbrum I in 1997, Lhotse in 2000, Kangchenjunga in 2001, and Makalu in 2002.

Not only does he want to finish all the 8000ers in 2004, by climbing Annapurna and Broad Peak back to back, but he also has a vision for Everest in the winter!

Check out the interview:

ExWeb: How was Manaslu compared to your previous climbs, was it harder, easier, and how did the weather affect you?

PP: I found the expedition to Manaslu the hardest compared to my last three climbs. Maybe K2 in 1996 from North was harder. I didn't have such a bad weather even on Kangchenjunga in 2001, and now I understand why even excellent climbers were talking about Manaslu with such a deep respect.

ExWeb: You are now only 2 away from all 14, 8000ers. What are your plans for the future?

PP: Well, it's true only I only have Annapurna and Broad Peak left, but "only" is not a proper word. "Still" is a better description. I have a big respect for Annapurna not only because of statistics but mainly because it's very hard from the South and dangerous from North. I need more time to organize a good team and to figure out how to get there. Generally, I want to make both peaks in 2004, starting during the springtime in Nepal and then continuing on to the Karakorum in the summer.

ExWeb: How did the climb go this year - did all the memberes on the expedition get along well?

PP:This year my team was maybe not the strongest from all of my previous expeditions, but they were very consistent. That's why from all climbers left at the end of expedition almost all had a summit bid. Also on summit day, of the four climbers who went for it, two reached the summit. The rest were quite high but stop pushing up for different reasons. So the conclusion is obvious; the team was good enough for Manaslu.

ExWeb: Howís your frostbite doing, and when are you expected to be fully recovered?

PP: My frostbite is on four fingers but only one has it seriously. Doctors are giving me a 50% chance for a full recovery without surgery, but the estimated time to heal is 2-3 months and then another 1-2 months for skin rebuilding. So, Iíve suspended all my plans until next year. Well, maybe fingers are not so important for man's existence and activities, but I love my fingers and want to have them to the end.

ExWeb: From all your climbs, when were you the most scared?

PP: Well, I was scared on my first expedition to GII when coming down from the summit. I had been taken down by an avalanche and stopped nearly at the edge of steep slope that ended on the glacier, but it just boosted my adrenaline and thatís it. Now on Manaslu I was scared from the first day to last. Believe me, I felt a lot of discomfort.

ExWeb: Is there a climb or project that you really want to do?

PP: I have two secret dreams; first to go back to Makalu and climb the West Pillar and my second is to do winter expedition on the North side of Everest. You think I am crazy?

ExWeb: Not crazy, just very motivated! Now, what does motivate you to climb? Why are you so passionate about it and do you ever plan to stop climbing?

PP: Well, I started climbing 30 years ago. Really! So my motivations have changed many times but one thing is still the same, my fascination of mountains and my drive to feel the thin air. That's why I will climb to the end of my ability to do so. I hope it will come very late in my life. You know, on the top of Everest I said to myself, "It would be great to see the world from all 8000ers." At the time I didn't take it seriously but a couple years later this thought came back to me like a boomerang and I started to race for all the 8000ers. Who knows why? Now I feel that mountains react on me like a magnet. The closer you are, the stronger their influence is.

Image from this spring's Manaslu expedition courtesy of klubzdobywcow.pl

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